21/02/2013 Question Time


David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from St Paul's Cathedral in London, with a panel including Vince Cable MP, Diane Abbott MP, Lord Heseltine, Rev Giles Fraser and Peter Hitchens.

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Tonight, Question Time comes from St Paul's Cathedral in London. We


are directly under the great dome designed by Sir Christopher wren


and this is of course primarily a place of worship but it's also used


as a place to debate the great issues of the day often actually


right here under the dome, or in centuries past, outside in the


cathedral precinct by St Paul's Good evening to you at home and to


our add Jens here at St Paul's and to our panel, the Business


Secretary, Vince Cable, the Shadow Health Minister, Diane Abbott, the


former Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine, Mail on Sunday


columnist, Peter Hitchens and the Reverend Giles Fraser back in St


Paul's for the first time since he resigned his post here over the


handling of the protesters in last year's Occupy camp.


Thanks very much and Matt Babington has our first question? In light of


the recent high profile case, is it time for fundamental overhauls in


the way people are selected for jury service?


The Vicky Pryce case of course was led to the jury being dismissed. Is


it time for a fundamental overhaul of the way people are selected?


Diane Abbott? No. I think the principle that you are judged by a


jury of your peers is very important. One thing we have to


remember about the case in question was that the point at issue was


this notion of marital coercion and I'd not heard of it as a legal


concept before now. I'm not surprised, in a way that, the jury


got a bit muddled. This clearly wasn't perhaps the best jury one


has ever heard of, but if you speak to lawyers and judges and people in


the legal profession, the principle of trial by jury is very important


and it helps to give the legal system some legitimacy because


jurors by and large are the only part of the criminal justice system


which is actually a cross section of the wider society.


Peter Hitchens? Yes, it does need an overhaul. It's partly because it


was overhauled and people do know it and some don't, the old property


qualification was dropped and people say that was unjust. There


was a lot of discussion at the time as to whether we should then have


some kind of educational qualification, but they couldn't


agree, so they said everybody on the electoral role should be on the


jury. At that time, the minimum age for voting was 21, it's now dropped


to 18. I think that, although many juries, and I think many people may


have served on them, are extremely serious and do their job very well,


there is a number of juriesry falls below the proper standard which


contain people who simply can't capable of judging the facts before


them properly. I think it's time we had some sort of educational


qualification and also some sort of minimum age. I think 18 is too


young to decide the fate of another human being.


What was the property qualification and why do you think that was


better? I don't think it was better, it needed to be reformed. In those


days, it ruled out in England women almost entirely. In Scotland, they


adjusted it so it allowed women in, but it meant you had to be middle


class to be on a jury and they decided this had to go. In their


thrust, they could not think of any educational or any other


qualification to set in its place so everybody gets on. It's clear


that not everybody, and if you were facing trial and your entire future


and liberty and reputation depended on 12 people, you would be worried


by some of the juries which people have to face. There's another thing


about this which we again forget, back in the 60s, Roy Jenkins got


rid of unanimous juries and many will have seen the film 12 Angry


Men. The whole principle was that it had to be unanimous where if


someone was convinced about someone's guilt, they could hold


out until the end until everyone agreed with them. Now it's gone and


it's a matter of time passing and the judge can say, go away and get


a majority. These protections are very important for a free society,


otherwise a trial is nothing but the state ganging up on you.


woman in the middle? I'm a serving police officer. I've seen a number


of juries and a number of different almost types of jurys in different


courts and it's quite apparent that there are some major failings in


the system. I've seen jurors falling asloop and yet they are not


challenged in the court -- asleep. There are real concerns around


things like that. It's difficult to suggest an educational standard as


a minimum but I suggest if failing on the part -- a failing on the


part of the prosecution or defence not to ensure that you are working


to the lowest common denominator, whether they have a HPD or whether


they completed school should make no difference, it should be give


tonne them in the words that they can comprehend what's happening --


PhD. But what if you have a jury... It's weird for a juror to say come


to a verdict base on the a reason that wasn't presented in court and


has no facts to support it either from the prosecution or defence.


What was that all about? Giles Fraser? I couldn't disagree more


with you, Peter, about that business about having to be


intelligent to be on a jury. We have a common law, it's law that's


judged by the common people, we all judge each other, that's using


common-sense. The idea that intelligence is some way of


protecting us against some sort of irrationality in making these


decisions is not fair. David was right when he said reason is a


slave to the passions and reason isn't always what you want. You


want people, us ordinary people, judging each other, that's a basic


principle and if you have to be clever or posh or have a house, I


think that fundamentally undermines a basic principle of justice. We,


as the people of this country, judge each other in court. Can I


just say, it's not intelligence. This is very important this, it's


not some kind of IQ rating that I'm suggesting, it's experience and


wisdom. You are deciding the fate of a fellow human. It's not


intelligence. I understand that. The man in the front? This is one


high profile case. Had it not been in the newspapers and the media, we


wouldn't know about it. This is just another knee-jerk reaction


brought about by people like yourself, Peter, who'll do it


because it's something to shout about.


Michael Heseltine? It's very important really. The point about


the exception case is important and I strongly would argue for the


status quo. Peter helped me by giving examples of the sort of


changes that he had in mind. He mentioned age. Well, we are


perfectly prepared to send people out at the age of 18 to kill people


in Britain's name all over the world where it's appropriate and


are you seriously telling me they are too young to make a judgment


about what is right or wrong? I don't believe that.


APPLAUSE And Peter's other point was, they


need to be educated. Who is going to decide who is and who is not


educated or what being educated amounts to? The moment you start


asking these questions, you have to have someone to make the decision.


Who makes the decision? People appointed by the party politicians?


Some independent group of worthys who've got an intellectual approach


to life? You tell me of someone that you would accept as a


reasonable alternative for one ludicrous decision by a jury to ask


the question David asked drk can we take into account evidence for


which there is no fact, nothing to base it on and was never raised in


this court? How can you begin to ask a question like that if you are


sitting on a jury? The man on the gangway? I think as


soon as you start making it about someone's educational level or


their age, you make it a preserve of a certain strata of society


which I thought was counterproductive to what the whole


point was. I suppose the assumption isn't that all 12 jurors wanted to


ask this question but maybe one or two did, isn't it? And then the


rest of the jury said, we can't explain it to you, we'd better get


the judge to explain it to you. Is that your reading of it? Yes, the


point's been made that this was a very odd case and unusual trial.


The point is, you are going to get people on juries that are not very


bright and jurors that are incompetent, but you will get


judges and prosecutors who are incompetent. Giles is right, it's


one of the basic principles of criminal justice in the UK that you


have a right to be tried by your peers through a jury. We tamper


with it at our peril. At the past, politicians have tried to remove


jury trials, it was suggested that the ordinary members of public are


not bright enough to deal with fraud trials. That was a backward


move. I think the jury system is obviously going to have bad cases


but we should preserve the principles, it's a right one and we


should treasure it. One more point and we'll move on. The lady there?


Should we ensure that all jurors can speak English and understand


English? I don't think that was the issue... That's not the question.


This was an exceptional jury and you shouldn't make extrapolations


about juries, you know, a lady there said she'd seen jurors


falling asleep, I've heard of judges falling asleep and


barristers that could send you to sleep.


LAUGHTER I believe that the right to a jury trial by people that look


like a cross section of the wider community is absolutely crucial for


people like my constituents continuing to have confidence in


the criminal justice system. must be right that... But you do


have to speak English? It must be right that you have to speak


English or you can't begin to understand the trial. That's not an


issue. It wasn't named as an issue in this particular case, but there


will be cases, and there are cases, where some jurors don't have


English as their first language and may speak it but may not fully


understand the nuances of some of the stuff that is discussed and


someone in court might have an interpreter, but the jury members


donts. -- don't. donts. -- don't.


APPLAUSE This is not just an individual case.


If you are conscious of what is going on in the courts and pay


attention and report on them, you will see there is a problem with


juries which goes wider than this case. One thing I might say to


Michael Heseltine, the very run why we send young men out as soldiers


often wrongly is because they are young, unwise and prepared to kill


and risk terrible danger in a way that wise people wouldn't and...


That is true... The truth is not popular but it's the case. Why do


we send young men out to kill? Xaept because of that and secondly,


you might be aware of the fact that there are strong moves to lower the


voting age to 16. How many of you want your futures decided by 16-


year-olds? APPLAUSE As a former Secretary of


State for Defence to describe the British armed forces in the wrai


you did is disgraceful -- way you did is disgraceful.


APPLAUSE. I haven't described the British armed forces in any sense


at all, I've... You described the soldiers in language which was


viciously unfair to them. Young men are unwise, you were unwise when


you were young and so was I and don't try to deny it or silence me


with silly rhetoric. It's ridiculous. I've said nothing


uncomplimentary about the Armed Forces and you know it perfectly


well. You wait until you see the transcript.


Just to clarify, perhaps you would say what you said about 18-year-


olds once more? We cynical politicians send young men out to


kill and be killed. That's what I said. No, it's not what you said.


It is. You said they were stupid. said no such thing. Check the


recording. We'll see the record. You, Sir? I'm 18, joining the Armed


Forces next year, I think I can make an educated decision much more


than older people. I'm mature enough to decide on what I want to


do and also to be on a jury if I The next question is from Tom Crill.


Heather Frost, an unemployed mother of 11, is being a six-bedroom eco-


mansion by her local council. Is this an example of society looking


after those in need? Or is it a waste of taxpayers' money? Vince


Cable? We don't know a great deal about this family other than what


her neighbours didn't approve of her told one of the popular


newspapers. This was, as I understand it, was not a mansion.


It was being occupied at two-and-a- half people a room. She was accused


of having a horse. She had quite a large family and, as I understand


it, the older children were working and earning and paid for it. The


really serious issue was that the popular press went for this lady


because she had a large number of children, she had 11 children. The


argument was isn't this woman feckless? Well, it turned out when


people investigated that she was sterile. She has had cervical


cancer and nobody had the sensitivity to realise that was her


problem. They jumped on this bandwagon, a woman with a horse, a


big house, let's trash her, it is a good way of attacking the benefits


system. It was outrageous the way it was dealt with. OK. Iain Duncan


Smith in your Government has floated the idea of capping child


benefits to two children, hasn't he? After two children, it is up to


you? That is a foolish suggestion. I have said so many times.


think it won't happen? Of course it won't happen. What they do under


the Conservative Government is up to them. This is not coalition


policy. Michael Heseltine? It is not the component policy of the


Conservative Party. So why should I try to defend what is not in


existence? Iain Duncan Smith floating a few thoughts? I don't


know what that amounts to. Does it mean that someone said he had said


it? Did some adviser say, "We are going to ask him to do it."?


said it to the Today programme, which is The Bible of modern


politics(!) He suggested a cap on child-related benefits for two


children. The fact is that he has been a pioneer in looking at the


whole back to work agenda and he's floating an idea which is his.


Let's get back to Heather Frost. And the 11 children and the eco-


mansion that is being built. What is your view of that? I think I


start off where virtually everybody would start off and say why are we


providing facilities of this sort for somebody who has got 11


children? That is way out of what normal expectation is. That is one


in the gut starts. Now you put yourself in the position of the


local authority. The fact is what are they going to do? Will they put


her on the street? They have to have a solution. If there were 11


children, it takes a lot of accommodation. If I was in the


local authority, I would never put her on the street. You then have a


problem. Fortunately, it is so much of an exceptional problem that I


don't think we ought to turn it into public policy. The man up


there on the right? The simple reason why we are providing this


house is the Conservative- originated policy of selling all


the council houses. Peter Hitchens? That point is absolutely right. The


much-lauded policy of selling council houses has been a


catastrophe for this country. It has deprived us of a very important


resource for a cheap electoral gain. The way in which this decision is


now universally praised always puzzles me. I think now that


housing benefit - it costs more than the Royal Air Force and it is


a much more inefficient, unfair and wasteful way of housing people than


the council houses used to be. The issue about the lady herself - I'm


all in favour of big families. They should be founded upon marriage and


they should be founded upon people supporting themselves if at all


possible. If you set up a system where welfare payments are paid and


houses given to people who are not in that circumstance, you can't be


surprised when they take advantage of that system. I don't blame this


lady for what she has done at all. I blame the politicians who, for 50


years, have encouraged this kind of behaviour. You can't say it is the


responsibility of people who look at the system and take advantage of


it. That is absurd. If we want it to stop, we need to say, "Reform


the welfare system which you have made absurdly overgenerous and do


something about restoring the institution of marriage which you


have destroyed." APPLAUSE Giles Fraser? I think it is scandalous


that we are using the example of this woman as propaganda for


benefit cuts. We are being softened up by examples like this that there


is some distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor. It


is a cover for a much greater scandal which is the scandal in our


housing market, the scandal of what's happening to poor people,


particularly in London where house prices are so out of control and


ordinary people can't live here and what's happening at the moment in


London is that ordinary people are being priced out of the centre of


town and we will end up being like Paris in this country where all of


the poor people live on the outside and the wealthy live on the middle.


These are the real scandals. You find one small example of a woman


like this which tugs at this seems unfair. It is propaganda for a


nastier form of cuts. That is the real scandal here. You, Sir? Well,


after doing just a little bit of research, I found out a bit more.


It wasn't a local authority that built the house for her. The local


authority sold the land to a housing association, the housing


association then built the house. She doesn't own the house. She is


paying rent on it. Being a caseworker, I know that once she


leaves, she does leave that house, another large family will pay rent


to the housing association. Isn't this another example of stories


that demonise people on benefit because it's now become public


enanynumber one? As a caseworker, I used -- public enemy number one? As


a caseworker, I have worked hard all my life. This is making people


feel ashamed of the money they have taken. We know the economy is bad.


There are more people on benefits. We should be helping these people,


not hindering them. OK. The man on the back row? The reason the UK has


such large volumes of debt is because of these high welfare


payouts. We can't afford to build people houses. What do you think of


this case? It is an example of how generous these welfare benefits are


that we can't afford. The man over there on the left? I take issue


with the Canon. Anybody has an entitlement to live in Central


London. I live in Hertfordshire. I can't afford to live in Central


London. Why should people have it as an entitlement? APPLAUSE You


want to answer that? The question is what sort of city do we want? Do


we want a city full of very, very expensive houses owned by Russian


oligarchs where no-one lives, it becomes a ghost town and all the


poorer people live on the outside? We want a London that is a mix of


people. I understand, I couldn't afford to live in London in a


million years. I understand that. The idea that ordinary people can't


afford to live in London I think is a scandal. We will come to a


question that is pertinent to that in a moment. Diane Abbott? Anybody


who thinks that overall the welfare system is absurdly overgenerous


doesn't know many people trying to live on welfare benefit. Not a week


goes by without one of these scare stories, picking out someone who


doesn't seem like a member of the deserving poor, they are splashed


in our tabloid papers and it is to soften us up for benefit cuts. And


when you drill down with these stories, it is never what it seems.


She's not been given a house, as the gentleman pointed out. The


council sold a piece of land for �220,000 to a housing association


who have built a six-bedroom unit on it which she's going to be


allocated. When her children leave home, she will have to move out.


The point is this: It has been a principle of British welfare


legislation since the 1945 National Assistance Act that we don't put


children on the street. The gentleman that said it is a waste


of public money. What are you suggesting? Are you suggesting the


children would go into care? You cannot take these bad, difficult


cases and use them to undermine our system of welfare. There is an


underlying narrative, oh London, Hackney, the East End is full of


people on benefits who don't want to work. I see more people on


benefits every week. I don't see people who don't want to work. I


see people that want to work. Kids that have left university, people


that have been made redundant who want to work and cannot get jobs.


I'm glad unemployment is coming down. The issue is not this one


woman with her Baroque case. The issue is how we are softened up for


increasing benefit cuts whereby the poor pay for financial prices which


bankers made. APPLAUSE You, Sir? The fact that every penny collected


in income tax goes on welfare, that is a sign that the welfare is too


big? Half of that money goes to pensioners? Are you suggesting we


should stop paying old able pensions? Not at all. The amount of


income tax doesn't cover the Navy, the Army. Most money that is


collected goes on welfare and pensions. It's a huge amount.


you suggesting that we should spend more on helicopter gunships and


less on the most vulnerable in our society? Not at all. You are


suggesting the proportion of money spent on welfare is greater than it


should be from the tax take, is that your point? If every penny


collected goes on welfare, all the other things that have to be paid


for... Vince Cable, the man in the know on this? Let's start from the


same point. This was a banking- induced crisis. We are paying the


price for it. The economy is smaller and we are poorer. There is


a genuine problem about the welfare budget. That doesn't mean to say


you should demonise the people who are beneficiaries of it. The budget


is rising rapidly and we have to deal with it. There is a problem


around housing benefit. Giles explained the reason that in London


85,000 council houses have been lost, they were sold. There are


more people needing them so they are pushed into the private sector,


rents go through the roof, you, the taxpayer, has to subsidise the


landlords to keep those people in place and the budget gets out of


control. That is why we have introduced some painful and


difficult measures. It is possible - it is right - to be compassionate


to people who are genuinely poor and need help while recognising


that there is a real problem with the welfare budget. We have to deal


with it. It is very interesting - the whole financial explosion began


in America when President Clinton encouraged them to be more generous.


It then became a phenomenon across the Western world. You can single


out the bankers. Nobody is likely to defend them. We are in the City


of London. Governments spent more money than their economies could


afford. Individuals borrowed on their credit cards, on mortgages,


they are all hocked up to the eyeballs and the bankers are in the


middle. We were all in the same game, politically, economically,


banking companies, the whole lot. The bubble burst. When it burst,


everybody drew in their horns. It is so easy to find someone to blame.


We were all involved in this, particularly the last Labour


Government. No. Let's move on. It is from Kate Horton. The latest


census suggests that white Brits are in a minority in London


accounting for 45% of residents. Is this a good or a bad long-term


trend? The latest census suggests white British-born are in a


minority in London, 45% of residents. Is it good, or a bad


$:/STARTFEED. Michael Heseltine? there's one speech I made of which


I was proud, it was in 1981, which included the words "They are black,


they are British, they were born here, they vote here." that is a


fact. So there's nothing you can do to turn back history. I defied my


party in the late 60s over the race relations Bill when I believed that


anyone who's lived in this country was entitled to live here within


the law without prejudice and with equal opportunity. That now is the


position so is it strong, is it weak, is it right, is it wrong? It


is a fact, and we should live with it and we should build on it and we


should see the incredible talent that there is in the immigrant


community and always has been, whether they were Jews or Catholics,


whatever, that's a different issue, but still, it's the same issue that


we have had many diverse groups of people and the only way we will all


prosper is to treat them well, live with them and give them the


opportunity to contribute to the wider benefit of society which they


want to do because actually they have exact think same instincts


that we do. They want to be happy, they want to love their children,


live in peace, live in the law and the vast majority of them want to


work hard. APPLAUSE


Kate buzz that answer your question?


Yes, I think so. I wanted to know everyone's views on that. All right.


What do you think, Peter Hitchens, about the balance that she's


described? Well, my gauge rises at the use of the word "White". The


issue should never be and really should never be the colour of


somebody's skin. I thought we all very long ago accepted that what


mattered about somebody was not the colour of his skin but the content


of his character. I'm not interested in what colour they are.


Why does the census... I don't know. Should the census... Many... The


real question is, does a country which has a very large amount of


immigration adapt to the immigrants or do the immigrants who arrive in


that country adapt to that country? And it's my very strong view that


the only hope of a tranquil and peaceful and productive and


successful society is that the migrants adapt to the place to


which they come. For very many years, we have not been encouraging


or indeed helping them to do that. We have been encouraging through a


policy of official state multiculturalism that people should


stay separate and remain within their migrant communities. We have


not created a single British nationality. There are various


feeble efforts to make them take exams in how to claim social


security benefits or who was Winston Churchill - that's not the


same. We have ceased to be proud of our own country culture, history,


religion, language and we haven't asked our new citizens to be proud


of them either. I see the result of that. It's not a question of


whether they are white, it's a question of whether they are


British. Britain is ceasing to become Britain, that is my view and


that's a great shame for us who're here and for those who've come.


APPLAUSE You, Sir? I had the privilege to be


a games maker during the Paralympic Games last year, London 2012. We'd


not have got those Games had we not been a diverse and international


City. I had the privilege of meeting citizens of 20, 30, 40


different countries during my time as a Games maker and I said to them


"What do you think of the Paralympics, what do you think of


London?" and the common response that I got wherever in the world


they come from is "London is my second favourite City". London is


their favourite second city because of its diversity, because of its


international perspective, because of its history.


The person up there? APPLAUSE I was just following on


from that gentleman's point that I don't think that immigrants come


here to become British, they come here because it's the closest they


can find to a democracy where they can live the lives that they want


to live to follow the face that they want to follow -- faith that


they want to follow, and that should be celebrated and that's


what makes Britain British. Giles Fraser, can I just repeat the


question. The latest census says white British are now in a minority


in London, 45% of residents. Is that good or bad as a trend?


indifferent to it. I think it makes no difference, white, black,


whatever. I'm not interested and I don't think that the census ought


to collect that information at all. I mean, the point, the underlying


point is that I think London is the most wonderfully diverse place in


the world, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else precisely because of


that. It's always had a history of welcoming people from all around


the world. My surname was originally Freederberg, not Fraser,


because a lots of my family came over here as Jews and contributed


greatly to the society as waves of people from all around the world


have done so. It enriches our culture and the idea that it's a


problem that multiculturalism is a problem. I'm an unashamed


multiculturalist, it adds hugely to what is so rich and exciting about


place like this. You disagree with Peter? Completely.


The woman up there in the back row? My grandparents came to this


country in the early 20th century as immigrants from Eastern Europe


and brought up my parent who is in turn brought up me to respect


everything British. This country fed us, clothed us, educated us. I


don't think it's a problem with colour, I think any problem that we


have is in my grandparents house, English was spoken, everybody was


expected to learn our host language, to learn our host manners, to


respect the law, et cetera, and everything that goes with it. So


when people are talking about colour, I don't actually think they


are meaning colour, I think they are meaning culture and that's


where I think that we have to integrate to get a fully integrated


community. Diane Abbott?


APPLAUSE Well, I'm one of those 55% non-


white people living in London. Let me say this; London is the City


that immigration made. It's not a question of London tolerating


immigrants, immigrants made London, whether it was Irish in the 19th


century, whether it was Asian shopkeepers, whether it's French


and American bankers in the City of London, all the great world Cities,


London and New York and Paris, they are built by immigrants from people


that attract all over the world. As for the talk of how we non-white


Britons have to adapt to British culture, there is no group of


people more passionately pro- British, more passionately pro-


Royalty actually than amongst the west Indians with whom I grew up.


It's crude to assume that because you were born overseas you don't


love this country and the Royal Family. There is talk about fewer


white people and they are moving out. The demographic patterns in


London are to do with class, not colour. My parents came to this


country, lived in Paddington. They moved out to Harrow, then to


Edgware. Now, my brother lives in Buckinghamshire. That's not white


flight, that is people gradually moving up the social ladder. Class


is the issue, not race. I'm proud to be a Londoner, I'm proud London


is one of the most diverse cities on the planet and that is what


makes it a great city, its diversity.


APPLAUSE I agree with everything Diane's


just said. As it happens, I have a racially mixed family of my own. I


don't know whether my three children and grandchildren are


regarded as white or non-white on your definition, I mean I think


the... The census? Well it's offence toif try to draw


conclusions based on it and it takes us back to the kind of South


African apartheid. Do you think the census should abandon this? I think


it should. It creates unnecessary gition. Going back to the original


question, is this good or bad - what is bad is if you get


segregation and ghettos. Some American cities have that. I don't


think it's happening in London, I think London is a much more mobile,


vibrant city and our ethnic minorities spread out. I represent


a constituency in South West London, Twickenham, when I first went to


live there it was almost exclusively white. Now it has an


ethnic minority population of 10- 12%, it's ethnically mixed, and


that's desirable and white. Where the public debate is, it shouldn't


be about race. If there is an argument about migration and much


of it in London has been from eastern yap, it's from Poland,


Lithuania and they of course make a positive contribution to the


economy. But the migration issue is separate from the white non-white


thing which I think we should bury. You, Sir? There is an article on


the BBC News web page highlighting a white population the size of


Glasgow's left London, so it is white flight which kind of


highlights that this integration isn't happening. It's a class issue.


It is not the case that white Londoners look at an area and think,


there's lots of people, I'm not moving there. Middle class people


are moving into Hackney, Brixton, even moving into Brent which was


very western when I was a child. There is an issue about class. The


issue about colour is I think a misnomer.


Michael Heseltine? I think the fascinating thing to me is that


London is, as we all know, enormously diverse today and Boris


Johnson's just become an elected mayor and that says something about


the spread of interests that exist. I don't follow that one. It is,


because if it was a class phenomenon and the poor and all


that and the blacks... They wouldn't have voted for Boris?


That's right. The point I want to make is about the census. It so


happens that in a job I'm doing for the Government at the moment, we


are looking at the ethnic mix of Birmingham. You can get statistics


which show that the unemployment levels in Birmingham are bad


compared with other parts of the country. But if you then look at


the ethnic mix of certain communities, you find that they are


very significantly Pakistani or Bangladeshi. The women in those


communities, for cultural reasons, don't want to work on the same


proportionate levels as other groups of people. So by knowing the


racial mix, you realise that it's not that the economy isn't working


in those areas, it's simply that the culture within those families


persuades the women not to try and work. So it can be helpful in


knowing what the problems are. OK. Do you agree with that? You,


Sir? Well, before everyone jumps on the bandwagon that Britain is


losing its Britishness, I would like to ask people like Peter


Hitchens define being British? Sorry, what is the question? Define


being British. He wants you to define being British before you


assert that Britain is losing its Britishness. I don't think David


wouldn't allow me to go on long enough. David wouldn't allow you to


go on very long, no. I've write an good book about this. We won't


allow you to promote your book. Which I would invite you the read.


We'll move on. We have had a certain amount of time on that and


I want a question from Peter Beaumont, please? Are the numbers


in George Osborne's economic strategy as wildly optimistic as


his forecast for the 4G auction? Remembering that they were hoping


to raise �3.5 billion and only got �2 and a bit from the announcement


today and it was a key component of the Osborne economic strategy in


the Autumn Statement that this money would come through so they


seem to have a large hole there. Giles Fraser, do you think that the


optimism that George Osborne shows is as exemplified by the 4G


auction? Well, it's clear that the numbers don't add up and that...


Stkpwhrs which numbers? They don't add up in the last budget which was


premised on the fact that there was going to be more money coming in


from the sale of 4G. But actually, it's a wider problem, the problem


about the way in which that budget really doesn't work because it's


premised on the idea that austerity is the only way forward. I think


it's just another example of how the numbers don't work out for the


current Government and what we really need to do is invest money


in our infrastructure, particularly in our housing, to stimulate the


economy, to create more growth and so that actually we can find a way


of getting this economy kick started again. But at the moment,


if all we are doing is garrotting our economy with austerity, we are


never going to find a way forward. It looks like it will balloon under


the coalition to something like �600 billion more in the


coalition's time in office? Isn't that sensible? What we are trying


to do is to reduce - sorry to use economic jargon - the structural


deficit. It is the amount of revenue we used to get from the


banking system that disappeared. The Government has to deal with


that over time. We started hoping to do this over four years. We are


now planning to do it over seven, which is the time period the last


Labour Government set. I mean, when the economy slows down, the


sensible thing to do, it's the let the deficit widen temporarily -


that's what's happened. Similarly, the Government has to borrow to do


the kind of things Giles is talking about. That was deliberately


allowing the debt to grow? What the Government is trying to do is two


things. This is why the austerity versus growth argument is so


foolish. The first is to try to get the public finances in order - we


are doing that. You have to try and stimulate growth. That does involve


doing some of the things Giles has described - and that's absolutely


right. So we have to have attempts to get growth alongside dealing


with the deficit. The reason why this is so difficult is because we


are dealing with a crisis the likes of which we have not had before. I


have often said this is the economic equivalent of a heart


attack. Economies don't just bounce back. We are dealing with a banking


system that has been badly damaged. We are dealing with Government


finances that have been hit in an extraordinary way. We are dealing


with a pile-up of personal debt which Michael Heseltine described.


Getting out of this crisis will be very difficult. It's got to be done


by this combination of discipline with the public finances and trying


to support and stimulate economic growth. You are saying that for the


moment, Osborne's policy, the coalition policy, is deliberately


to allow debt to increase because that will expand the economy?


I have never heard it described like that. We are flexible and we


have to be flexible. You, Sir? one thing they are not doing, there


is a good idea to improve the rail service, not build HS2, but what


they are not doing is cutting the enormous salaries of town hall


workers, civil servants and their enormous pensions. That is the one


thing they are not doing. They are cutting the wrong things and not


expanding the right things. Building aircraft carriers with no


aircraft - it is outrageous. APPLAUSE Michael Heseltine? Well,


the reason why the deficit is continuing is because the


Government has decided that it will not cut the Health Service. It will


not emasculate - you may think - you want to cut the Health Service,


you get elected on that platform. This coalition is not going to do


it. The welfare system is being preserved largely in tact. So


Vince's point is the right one... TELEPHONE RINGS There is a


telephone going. Is that your wife?! LAUGHTER It is the


Chancellor! You have gone off message! No. My wife is supporting


what I have been saying! She rang me to let me know! I'm not going to


be stopped. The fact of the matter is, the reason why the economy and


George Osborne's budget is taking longer to sort is because we are in


the middle of a world recession that none of us have seen before.


It's taking longer to sort out. There is no domestic policy that is


going to make a serious difference to the world situation in which we


trade. If we can't see recovery in Europe, if China is still slowing,


if India is slowing, if America's got a cliff-edge situation, that


limits our discretion and it is simply dishonest for any party to


come and pretend there is a serious option. We have to sweat it out.


The fact is the extraordinary thing to me in this relatively stagnant


situation is we have got more people at work in this country


today than we have ever had. We have more women at work. We have


more young people at work. So, despite the appalling economic


world circumstances, this coalition has managed to preserve employment


at record levels. That is extraordinarily impressive. Diane


Abbott? Sweat it out, the only thing to do? The problem is it is


the poorest and middle-income people that are suffering because


of this Government's economic policies. Dr Cable is a reasonable


man, propping up an unreasonable Tory-led Government. Of course,


George Osborne's figures are dodgy. You might argue a lot about George


Osborne is dodgy! To be perfectly serious, they came in, this


coalition, promising to cut the deficit in four years. To clear up


your mess! No, you seem to have forgotten... APPLAUSE You seem to


be overlooking... We can't overlook your mess! The collapse of Lehman's,


but my point is this. The reason George Osborne's figures are dodgy


is because he's completely predictable. You do not achieve


growth by making the cuts in public expenditure that this Government


has done. For Lord Heseltine to say, "The reason we can't clear up the


deficit is because we didn't cut the NHS." Tell that to the people


in Lewisham who are seeing their hospital close. APPLAUSE To clarify,


are you saying therefore that the debt should be allowed to rise even


further than it is rising at the moment? No. Oh yes you are. We have


always said there had to be cuts. Cuts of this scale - the problem is,


as you probably know, that when you cut in the public sector, it has a


multiplier effect in the private sector. There are tradesmen,


builders, service workers all across London who can't make money


because of the cuts in public sector spending. The cuts the


Tories have made have plunged us into a double-dip recession and if


we are not very fortunate, it will be a triple-dip recession.


Osborne's figures are off. The rest of us are paying the price.


right. Yes, you, Sir? The problem doesn't matter if the deficit is


growing at the moment. The problem is is the Bank of England's


credibility about to be tested? We have rising rates and we have a


falling currency. That is is a real problem. Can we manage our debt?


You think the size of the deficit... It doesn't matter. Everybody has a


large deficit. Can we manage it? Will it become a problem for the


Bank of England? The woman behind you? I was going to say there are


some areas of our economy that are still growing, like the creative


and cultural industries which are 7% of our GDP. What can we do to


help those industries? We will come to that point. The woman on the


second row, third row from the back? I think corporate tax from


private companies seem to be a driving force in raising a tax


revenue and to help pay the country's deficit, what is the


Government doing helping businesses and promoting growth? I'm not clear


what you are saying. You should or shouldn't be relying on corporate


tax? Corporate tax is helping raise tax revenue. The Government seems


to be helping - the Government doesn't seem to be helping private


businesses to promote growth. The man up there? I find it rather


rich to hear Diane Abbott say that the public sector, there's cuts


from Government expenditure. The Government is not really cutting


public sector expenditure. It's still increasing in real terms. And


what Labour left as an inheritance was so bad that the country is now


having to pay the price for that. You, Sir? It is doing it in my


hospital in Lewisham and it is doing it because neighbouring


hospitals have such poor PFIs negotiated by the Government. They


are closing a functioning hospital. They are making cuts where they can.


Vince Cable, on the point of public sector cuts. Is he right or he


right? There are certainly parts of Government where we have had to


take painful measures and real cuts have had to be made. The NHS budget


is protected. There are pressures on the NHS. I remember fighting


hospital closures when Diane's party were this power. The NHS


budget has been ringfenced and protected. The rest of Government


is having to take some very serious cuts. You are looking pained?


is a moral issue here. Seeing as we are sitting in the City of London


and the city was part responsible for the financial mess. The banks,


yes. If it is the case that it's people in this square mile that


were largely responsible and yet the people who will pay the price


for that are the poor and vulnerable on benefits and who need


our hospitals and so forth, there is a moral problem with that


equation. Peter Hitchens? Well, it is interesting to listen to the


Conservative and Labour Party, which aren't that different.


will be better? This isn't a crisis. This is national decline. We have


been living for many, many years far beyond our means as a country


and as people. And now the debts are being paid. They will be paid -


this is already happening with the currency - it will happen more when


we lose our AAA rating - through a decline in the value of the pound


and the consequent inflation. It's happening already through state-


sponsored inflation through quantitative easing. What will


happen in the end is that we will cease to be able to pay because of


this inflation and because of this decline for the things which we


have refused to reform. As a country, we will not look in the


face, no political party - Michael Heseltine is quite right - no


political party will stand and say, "We will cut the National Health


Service." They would lose the election. All right, don't let the


Government do it. Let it happen through inflation and national


decline. That is what you are seeing. This crisis will not end.


It will go on and on as we sink to a lower level in the world. Do you


agree with that? There is something in it. I have always been in favour


of reducing public consumption. This morality issue is the one that


Just take this issue of welfare reform. Now, what this Government


is doing in order to contain the welfare budget is saying that there


can't be more for a family on welfare than the average earnings


of those in work. In other words, the people paying the taxes in work


shouldn't expect to sustain living standards for people on the welfare


benefit. I can tell you that that will lead to people saying, "Oh,


what about poor Willie "and it is a hard-luck story. That is is a moral


issue. Why should the vast majority of people at work pay to sustain


families who are out of work at higher living standards? That is a


moral issue. APPLAUSE Vince Cable, briefly. We have to stop, actually.


Our hour is up. We are going to be in Eastleigh next Thursday. We will


go out live after the voting is over. We will be able to talk about


over. We will be able to talk about why people voted the way they did.


I don't know who is going to be on the penl yet, except for the film-


maker -- the panel yet, except for the film-maker Ken Loach. We will


be in Dover the week after. You can apply via


David Dimbleby chairs Question Time from St Paul's Cathedral in London. On the panel are business secretary and Liberal Democrat Vince Cable MP; Labour shadow health minister Diane Abbott MP; former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine; Rev Giles Fraser, who resigned from his position at St Paul's in 2011; and Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens.

This is the first time Question Time has been hosted from St Paul's. The debate takes place directly under the Cathedral's iconic dome.

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